NH free-staters prepare for newcomers
|Title:||New Hampshire free-staters prepare for newcomers|
New Hampshire free-staters prepare for newcomers
by Kate McCann Associated Press Writer 10/04/03
CONCORD, N.H. -- New Hampshire members of the Free State Project were still celebrating when their phones started ringing and the e-mails started coming.
Most had worked for months to promote New Hampshire over nine rivals as a prospective home for 20,000 project members from around the country. But Wednesday's victory announcement caught many unprepared.
"It's like the Iraqi war -- we were all cheering when we won, and now we won and don't know what the hell to do with it," said Don Gorman, a chimneysweep who lives in Deerfield.
John Babiarz, state chairman of the Libertarian Party, was smiling anyway.
"It's just going nuts," said Babiarz, a database consultant from Grafton. "New Hampshire businesses are calling me asking how they can help facilitate the move. People are asking where's the best place to live."
Babiarz said he even got an e-mail from a moving company trying to drum up business.
Granite Staters among the 5,400 free staters nationwide will meet Sunday in Bow to plan and assign tasks such as directing newcomers to real estate offices, schools and business opportunities.
In Newfields, project member Julie DiCarlo is ready with information about New Hampshire's home-schooling laws and support groups. DiCarlo said her dissatisfaction with public schools was a catalyst for her to join the movement.
"This is what happens when teachers' unions have too much control," said DiCarlo, who home-schools her two children, ages 6 and 9. "Education reform is a must, and New Hampshire's small enough and parents are hungry enough to achieve that."
The movement began two years ago with an essay on the Internet arguing that 20,000 liberty-minded Americans could have real clout if they all moved to one small state. Voting to select the state began when membership reached 5,000, and members pledged to try to quadruple their numbers and move to it beginning in 2005 or 2006.
Gorman views himself as an elder statesman for the transition. Once leader of the four-member Libertarian caucus in the New Hampshire House, Gorman says he will train people who have political experience to run for that 400-member body.
The House is attractive not only because it is large, but because candidates don't need to finish first to get elected in one of its numerous multi-member districts. One Rochester-area district, for example, elects 14 representatives.
But scoring seats in the Legislature is a low priority for now, Gorman says. Instead, Gorman wants project members to run for lesser offices like water commissioner and fire warden.
"We want people to come here and learn about New England in general and New Hampshire," Gorman said. "We want them to get involved in the volunteer fire department, the playground committee, the library board. We want to be good neighbors."
Republican Gov. Craig Benson said he welcomed New Hampshire's selection, but many others did not. State Democratic Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan accused the project of promoting a "radical, antifamily agenda."
Gorman acknowledged that Libertarians and other free-staters will have to work to overcome a public image of "a bunch of radical anarchists who carry guns and smoke pot."
He said they can do that partly by using their skills to scrutinize legislation and regulations and ask tough questions.
"Libertarians have a tendency to say, 'I have a square peg in a round hole and we're trying to pound it in with taxpayers money,'" he said.
If they succeed here, the free staters want to spread their message of small government and individual freedom to every state, ultimately making America into a libertarian utopia.
Political science professor Dante Scala is skeptical.
"(New Hampshire's) libertarian leanings come from an attitude that says, basically, 'leave us alone'. "So I don't know why they wouldn't give the same answer to this movement," says Scala, a political science professor at Saint Anselm College.
Even if Libertarians win some House seats, Scala said, they will need to jump a major hurdle called the Republican Party. Republicans hold all statewide offices and have large majorities in the House and Senate.
"How well will they get along with the majority?" Scala asks. "The other question is, will all these people get along with one another once they get here? Will they all pursue their own agenda? Will they splinter?"
Some free-staters are eyeing the sparsely populated north, Coos and Grafton counties, to relocate. Known for self-reliant residents who view "flatlanders" from the south with suspicion, the North Country has been home to rebels before.
Fed up at being in the middle of a U.S.-Canadian border dispute in the 1830s, settlers in what is now Pittsburg declared their independence as the Indian Stream Republic. The Republic established its own constitution, legislature and a militia that briefly invaded Canada.
Former Republican state Rep. David Corbin, who teaches political science at the University of New Hampshire, says a better comparison is to the freedom-seekers who settled the New Hampshire seacoast not long after the Pilgrims arrived.
"Of course, they traveled across an ocean and there was no Holiday Inn or real estate broker waiting for them on the other side," Corbin said. "But the ideas were the same. They were inspired by a political philosophy. They wanted to start anew."
These media articles are maintained on a non-commercial basis by The Free State Project, a non-profit organization, for historical, educational, scholarship, and research purposes. (For information regarding "Fair Use", see US Code Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 107).